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J Telemed Telecare. 2018 Jun;24(5):341-355. doi: 10.1177/1357633X17700781. Epub 2017 Apr 12.

Use of videoconferencing for physical therapy in people with musculoskeletal conditions: A systematic review.

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1 School of Physical Therapy, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.
2 Canadian Center for Health and Safety in Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.
3 College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.


Background Physical therapists are key players in the management of musculoskeletal conditions, which are common in rural and remote communities. There are few physical therapists in rural regions compared to potential need, so care is either not provided or must be sought in urban centers, requiring travel and time away from work and family to access services. Telerehabilitation strategies, such as real-time videoconferencing, are emerging as possible solutions to address shortages in rural physical therapy services. Objectives This review will: (1) determine the validity and the reliability of secure videoconferencing for physical therapy management of musculoskeletal conditions; (2) determine the health, system, and process outcomes when using secure videoconferencing for physical therapy management of musculoskeletal conditions. Methods A protocol-driven systematic review of four databases was carried out by two independent reviewers. Study criteria included English language articles from January 2003 to December 2016, on physical therapy management using secure videoconferencing, pertaining to adults 18-80 years with chronic musculoskeletal disorders. Randomized controlled trials, pre-experimental studies, and case-control studies were included. Quality analysis was performed utilizing standardized tools specific for the study designs. Results and conclusions Validity and reliability studies were identified as having high risk of bias. Intervention studies were of moderate quality, and found positive impact on health outcomes and satisfaction. Two studies evaluated costs, with evidence of cost savings in one study. More robust research is required to evaluate long-term effects of telerehabilitation for physical therapy management of musculoskeletal disorders, including cost-benefit analyses.


Physical therapy; musculoskeletal disorder; rural communities; telehealth; telemedicine; videoconferencing


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